The Rule of Culture

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Culture plays an important role in international business. It is very complex and contains many elements.

Culture plays an important role in international business. It is very complex and contains many elements. They include language, religion, education, attitudes, aesthetics, customs and manners, supernatural beliefs, etc. It is important to know these elements to make international business communication successful. For instance, it is good to know what gifts to give, how to keep personal space or even how to exchange business cards.

The Role of Culture in International Business

Culture plays a very important role in society and in international business, too. Knowing business culture and customs of the counterparty helps to avoid cultural misunderstandings. When businesses cooperate with respect to the culture of each other, the results are usually more productive (Culture and International Business, 2010). “It is also important to understand that cultural differences can be used as assets rather than liabilities when multinational corporations form task-oriented teams based on cultural diversity” (Culture and International Business, 2010).

Culture is very complex and contains many elements. They include language, religion, education, attitudes, aesthetics, customs and manners, supernatural beliefs, etc. (Aswathappa, 2010). One of the most important elements is language. It is not only a means of communication. Language shapes people’s minds and perception of the world. For instance, there are high and low-context languages. It is positive to know the host language. It allows to conduct business directly and to arrange everything in detail. Thus, direct communication with foreign business partners has many benefits (Aswathappa, 2010).

Religion is an important element of international business culture, too. “In general, all religions impact international business in the following ways:

  • Specific religious laws.
  • Clothing requirements.
  • Religious festivals during which work may be curtailed or forbidden.
  • Foods that are forbidden.
  • Ban or restrictions on consumption of alcoholic drinks.
  • Weekly day of religious observance.
  • Facilities for daily prayers.
  • Segregation of men and women at workplaces.
  • Restrictions on electronic and print media.
  • Restriction on business and trading hours” (Aswathappa, 2010).

A significant element of business culture is education. The more educated is the country, the more high-wage industries it can attract. The level of education forms the local market. For example, Western-European countries have a higher level of education than Eastern-European countries. Consequently, they are more likely to develop their markets for computers. The level of education influences the nature of advertisement, packaging, marketing research and distribution systems (Aswathappa, 2010).

Additionally, attitudes are essential elements of business culture. They can include:

  • attitude towards work: motivation, job, productivity, compensation and reward systems;
  • attitude towards business;
  • attitude towards time and future (Aswathappa, 2010).

Customs and supernatural beliefs can be very important. For instance, George Bush once gave Chinese Premier Li Peng cowboy boots decorated with the American and Chinese flags as a present. Such gift was inappropriate because in China the soles of the feet are considered to be the lowliest part of the body, and footwear is not given as a gift (Hummel, 2010).

Etiquette plays a significant role in international business. Exchanging business cards can have its etiquette. In some countries, there is a custom to take them with a certain hand and to examine and treat them with respect. There is also the etiquette of personal space. “In the Middle East you may get very touchy-feely with the men, yet one should never touch a woman. A slap on the back may be OK in Mexico but in China, it is a serious no-no. Touch someone on the head in Thailand or Indonesia and you would have caused great insult” (International Business Etiquette, 2006).

Culture plays a vitally important role in international business. It is very complex and includes many elements. Knowing them often helps to make international business relationships more efficient.

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